Last time I wrote, I talked about how my life hadn’t turned out as I planned. Which is true. What’s also true is that I know I’m not alone in this. I know that many people, if not most, have something that just doesn’t go as planned or dreamed or hoped or insert whatever word fits best for you. I’m not complaining and I’m not unhappy, but I have to work extra hard some days to not let these altered paths bring me down.
As it turns out, I share a roof with six other really good people, most of them innocent children, whose lives took an unexpected turn when we experienced divorce.
My parents divorced when I was 21 and I promised myself and then my husband and our future children that I would not let that happen to me and the ones I loved. I still don’t believe that promises are made to be broken, but I do know that sometimes they fall apart even when you try to keep them together.
I know it sounds crazy for me to say this, given that I was the initiator of my divorce, but there are so many unknowns that come with divorce, so many sad turns of events and also so many hard fought and deeply sought blessings.
Here are 8 things I’ve learned from my divorce.
1) You lose friends.
It’s true that when a couple divorces one or both of you will see friendships die. It may be abrupt or it might happen slowly over time, but there will be people who you once loved and shared laughter and life with that cannot find a way to continue to be your friend after your marriage ends. Maybe they are angry with you for ending a relationship, maybe they lose respect for you because you didn’t honor your marriage vows, maybe deep down they’re a little jealous that you did something they would like to do? I think it depends on the situation and the people involved but I have lost many special people in my life because of my divorce. Fight for them, you say! Well, I wish it were that easy. I don’t yet have the courage to put myself completely out there for some and others, well, I don’t have the energy. For me, right now, it’s just a sad, sometimes lonely, reality.
2) It’s expensive.
My ex husband and I did most of our divorce on our own. We met face to face and discussed how we thought things should be, carefully divvied up the assets and property, talked about how child support should look, planned custody rights and then had an attorney just do the paperwork for us. It’s still expensive and we were amicable and mostly agreeable. There are so many intangible costs that you don’t plan for or think about, so many places where that other person’s income or Christmas gifts from parents or resourcefulness truly makes a difference. It’s nearly impossible to put a dollar sign on having another set of eyes, ears, and hands in the house, another heart to bear the brunt of raising kids. Once the divorce is over, the financial burn blisters on.
3) You miss your old life, if only for a moment.
There are days when things are hard. There’s hardly any money in the bank, the house is a mess and you want to pick up the phone to call your mom but then remember she’s no longer there. An old song comes on the radio, your child says something that sounds just like him, or you happen upon an old photograph that shows two newlyweds, wide eyed and innocent, smiling like goofs as they hug one another. And, just for a fleeting moment, your heart does this crazy dip and you can’t catch your breath and you miss that person you used to know and love. You miss the life that you used to have, back when things seemed so wide open and easy. You know you can’t go back and you know you’re happier now, but for those few seconds you’re taken to that time and it makes you a bit melancholy.
4) It’s not natural.
Divorce with children brings forth a state, for me at least, that is not natural. As a mother, I am not meant to live half the month apart from my children. And neither is my ex husband. We have an extremely fair custody arrangement. We do one week with me, one week with him and we alternate all year long. We switch things up a bit for holidays, but we genuinely have our kids 50/50. While that is the most fair thing for the parents, I hate what it does to my children. In their defense, they truly seem to have adjusted well, but when I stop to think about them living two separate lives with parents that used to live together, my heart just breaks. After we’ve said goodbye on Sunday evening and the house is empty and quiet, a feeling of loneliness lingers in the air. It creeps through all the rooms that were an hour before full of mess and loudness and boys. It seeps into the broken places of my heart that can’t ever be perfectly mended and settles into a funk. Thinking about the life my boys lead while I’m not around is also a hard pill to swallow. It’s things like my ex husband taking Davis to the San Diego Zoo during a summer vacation and me weeping as I realized I was missing this milestone moment in his life. I know Richard feels the same about his boys. It’s a very unnatural state of being for parents who love their children like we do to live a life apart from them for half the month. But it’s a truth of divorce.
But with every cloud comes a silver lining and these are what I’ve discovered so far.
5) It’s freeing.
When a marriage is broken, there is a heaviness that sits on you and forever weighs you down. Although it took me years to finally make the decision to leave my marriage, once I did, there was a certain small lightness (which came after MUCH heaviness) that opened the door for possibilities. This doesn’t happen overnight or even over months. It’s taken me years to get to this point and I don’t speak of this freeness with irreverence or flippancy.
6) It’s an exercise in self exploration.
No, you don’t have to divorce to do this, but exploring who I was and what I wanted out of life certainly came about during the time of my divorce. I can’t say that it was a result, because I was pondering many of life’s great questions beforehand. But once you experience the trauma of divorce you most definitely have to take a look at yourself and ask and then try to answer some very difficult questions. It is not a pretty or easy thing to do, but in the end, I think I am closer to being a better person because of all this.
7) You can break unhealthy patterns.
For me, this was a result of the self exploration that came after the divorce. I realized I possess some seriously flawed characteristics and have begun working on them to try to change. In my previous marriage, I expected my ex husband to intuitively know exactly what I wanted. Or I assumed that because he loved me, he would know. And he didn’t. But instead of helping him understand me, I resented him for not “getting me”. I saw that as a huge disconnect between us. The only real disconnect was my ability to effectively communicate. This isn’t the only example, but it’s a big one. It’s constant work to be and do better.
8) It opens doors for authenticity.
I fell in love quite young. I was 18 and smitten. I was also very much a people pleaser who wanted to do what was right and expected. And that’s not to sell anyone out. I bought into that dream 100% and was very much in love. But I was too young to know that there were voices within me speaking their dreams and hopes. I somehow thought I could and would do it all. Or I thought one dream was better than the other, so I pushed some aside. I became who I thought I was supposed to be and it worked for me for a while. But when you aren’t really being yourself, how can you expect love to last? My ex husband didn’t know he was in love with someone who pretended. The thing is, I didn’t even know I was pretending until it was too late. The other thing, I realize now, is that I could have probably found a way to let the authentic me out while also staying true to our course. But I didn’t and things unfolded in a different way.
These days I work at being honest with myself and others. And that is what this post is about, but it is exceedingly hard still. Today this is how I feel about divorce and my life. Today this is what I have the courage to share.
This was not what I planned to have happen but I’m thankful to have learned something from it about myself and my life. I have learned to listen and trust myself, even when fear grips me and I don’t think I can possibly follow through. I can’t undo what’s been done, I can only move forward and smile (well, except for when those old songs come on the radio).